Trump cancels Republican convention in Florida after coronavirus spike

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would no longer hold part of the Republican Party’s nominating convention in Florida in August because of a spike in coronavirus cases in the state.

Trump already moved part of the convention from North Carolina to Florida because of restrictions on gathering due to the virus, but the surge in cases had led some Republicans to pull out of attending the Florida event.

Trump said it was not the right time to hold a “crowded convention.”

“The timing for this event is not right,” Trump said in a White House press briefing. “It’s just not right with what’s happened recently, the flare up in Florida. To have a big convention it’s not the right time.”

He said he ordered his aides to cancel the event “to protect the American people.”

Republican delegates would still be meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, the original venue for the convention, on the week beginning Aug. 24, Trump said.

He added he would still give a convention speech but “in a different form” and said there were plans for so-called “telerallies” during the week.

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Trump, who is expected to take on Democratic candidate Joe Biden in a Nov. 3 election, had moved the event from Charlotte to Jacksonville, Florida, after North Carolina’s governor refused to guarantee Trump could hold a large event in the state.

Trump said he had already informed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of the decision, which comes as the United States grapples with large numbers of new COVID-19 cases outside of the Northeast, the region hit hardest in the early months of the outbreak.

Florida is now among the states with the highest number of new coronavirus cases and has seen more nearly 390,000 cases of the virus and more than 5,600 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

As new cases surged in the state in recent weeks, some Republican lawmakers and party delegates said they would avoid traveling to Florida for the event.

Don Huizenga, a Republican delegate from Minnesota, was excited about going just two weeks ago, but changed his mind after seeing the growing coronavirus numbers in Florida.

“I really wanted to go, but with the coronavirus surge, it just doesn’t make sense. It has lots of people rattled,” Huizenga said earlier this week.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Simon Lewis; additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker